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Those Brexit clichés explained

Those Brexit clichés explained

EVER since February 2016, when David Cameron, the British prime minister, called a referendum on the UK leaving the EU, the debate has been clouded by catchphrases, similes and confusing metaphors. If you haven’t followed the debate religiously, or you are unfamiliar with British idioms, these may be mysterious. So as the negotiations reach a critical stage, here is your cut-out-and-keep guide to some of the most notable.

Project Fear

This was how the Leave campaign dubbed the economic forecasts made by the Treasury and bodies like the OECD and IMF about the potential adverse impact of a Brexit vote. George Osborne, the chancellor, certainly went over the top with his threats of a “punishment Budget” after a Leave vote. So far, the UK has not fallen into recession, a fact that Brexiters cite when pooh-poohing negative forecasts of the longer-term impact. But the UK’s growth rate has slipped in relative terms; while the world was booming in 2017, the UK had its slowest growth in five years.

Brexit means Brexit

This was the catchphrase used by Theresa May who replaced David Cameron as prime minister after the latter retired to his luxury garden shed. Mrs May, a Remainer, has struggled to make her priorities clear; we called her “Theresa Maybe”. The lack of a coherent plan by Brexiters has led them to be dubbed…

The dog that caught the car

Dogs chase cars but don’t expect to catch them and so are bewildered when they do. Many suspect leading Brexit campaigners never expected to win the vote. Now they have to make sense of their contradictory promises, the subject of the next cliché.

Have your cake and eat it

This old phrase has been revamped, most notably by Boris Johnson. The phrasing still confuses people, such as Paul Scully, a Conservative MP who tweeted this week that he couldn’t understand the problem: “There is literally no point to cake if it can’t be eaten.” The saying might be better rephrased “You cannot eat your cake and retain it”. In the Brexit context, it means you cannot expect to leave the EU and retain all or most of the advantages of membership. The EU’s favoured phrase for this is “cherry-picking”. Britain must choose between a…

Hard and soft Brexit

Broadly speaking, a hard Brexit means leaving the single market (where goods and services are traded on an equal basis, whatever their origin within the EU) and customs union (where members have common tariffs and restrictions on trade with outside parties). A soft Brexit would mean staying in one or both. But to Brexiters that would be…

Brexit in name only (Brino)

This would be a betrayal of the British people (although Scotland and Northern Ireland voted Remain), democracy and all the rest of it. Such certainty points to Brexiters’ belief in the…

Psychic ballot paper

The referendum only asked voters whether they wanted to leave the EU, not how it should be done. But politicians seem to have a remarkable psychic link with voters, believing they can divine a whole host of intentions from the answer to a binary question.  So the public “decided” to leave the single market and the customs union, even though those options weren’t on the ballot paper and some Leave campaigners said there was “no question” of the single market being at risk. The most concrete promise—the £350m a week that would flow to the NHS—will mysteriously not be fulfilled, even though it was on the side of the Leave campaign bus.  But merely pointing out these inconsistencies makes your blogger into a….

Remoaner

This is the term devised by Brexiters for those who point the flaws in their arguments. Indeed, highlighting these flaws is seen as helping the EU in the negotiations. As the comedian Chris Addison tweeted: “Attention all those people shouting ‘Iceberg’. Stop doing the iceberg’s job for it.” But there are worse names than Remoaners, such as…

Enemies of the people

This is how the Daily Mail dubbed judges who ruled that Parliament should decide on when Article 50 (notice of EU withdrawal) should be triggered. This diatribe, an echo of Nazi rhetoric, occurred even though the Leave campaign was supposedly about returning power to Parliament. The fear, apparently, was that MPs might not decide on the kind of Brexit the Daily Mail wants (see Psychic Ballot Paper). Those who don’t follow the exact wishes of the Mail have also been called…

Brexit saboteurs

You would have thought that the sabotage is being conducted by a government which admits not doing an economic assessment before deciding to leave the single market and customs union, and has not done the preparation work for such a departure. That is why the government has asked for a…

Transition/implementation period

Even though the government delayed triggering Article 50, it won’t be ready by March 2019. So it wants to stay in the EU institutions for another two years or so. Or, to be more precise, it wants a “have your cake and eat it” deal in that period. The May government prefers the term “implementation period” to “transition period”. But if the UK does remain within the EU institutions, nothing will be “implemented” at all. The reason that the UK government is going along with all this is that business has urged it to avoid a…

Cliff edge

The worry is that if the UK drops out of the EU suddenly there will be enormous economic disruption. But the flaw in the reasoning is that, by moving the date to the end of 2020, going over the cliff is just being postponed, not avoided. Again, Leavers would tell us to stop worrying about this and focus on the…

Sunlit uplands

All will be well when the UK leaves the EU and forges its own trade deals. The US and China, notoriously tough trade negotiators, will roll over and give the UK a good deal once it is on its own and not part of a 28-nation bloc, which has much more economic significance. Furthermore, the UK will scrap its regulations and become a kind of…

Singapore-on-Thames

This is an odd example to pick as Singapore is a country where the government has enormous economic power. Citizens must contribute to a mandatory savings scheme, for example. And the Brexiters are silent on which regulations they would like to drop—worker protection, environmental rules—for fear that the British public would not like the details. But never mind, if it doesn’t work out well, it won’t be the Brexiters’ fault, it will be because of a…

Stab in the back

Another revived inter-war German slogan. Blame is already being lined up on those who opposed Brexit (see Remoaners, Enemies of the people) for not being positive enough. It was the little boy’s fault that the Emperor had no clothes.

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Source: The Economist Latest News

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